Judge moves biotech beet case to D.C.
Transfer puts two similar suits in hands of same court
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
A lawsuit challenging the partial deregulation of biotech sugar beets has been transferred from a federal court in California to one in Washington, D.C.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White agreed to transfer the case to the District of Columbia federal court because another lawsuit over partial deregulation was previously filed there by the sugar beet industry.
The transfer "would better serve the efficient and expeditious administration of justice by having all challenges to the February 2011 interim decision decided by a single court," the judge said.
White has already presided over two lawsuits related to genetically engineered sugar beets, which were developed by the Monsanto Co., to withstand glyphosate herbicides.
In the first lawsuit, known as Sugar Beets I, the judge found that the USDA's deregulation of biotech sugar beets violated environmental law.
The agency's approval of the crop was vacated in August 2010, pending the completion of a study known as an environmental impact statement.
That case is now closed, but Monsanto and several sugar companies are challenging White's rulings in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the second case, Sugar Beets II, White ordered the removal of biotech sugar beet stecklings, or seedlings, from the ground in November 2010.
However, that injunction was overturned by the 9th Circuit in February.
That case is still pending, but the USDA recently asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit as moot.
In February, the agency announced partial deregulation measures under which farmers could plant genetically engineered sugar beets.
That decision is the subject of the most recent lawsuit filed by biotech opponents.
Those same interim rules were challenged in the District of Columbia federal court by sugar beet growers, cooperatives and seed companies, which have asked a federal judge to declare that the USDA's restrictions either go too far or comply with environmental law.
With both of the challenges to partial deregulation now in the District of Columbia federal court, the USDA has requested the two lawsuits be consolidated.